Fit Over Fifty: Exercises for a Younger Tomorrow
Older adults should remain active and strong. Including exercise in your daily routine can improve quality of life and greatly slow the natural aging process.
Not only is appropriate exercise safe for almost everyone, but it is also possible for seniors to make important strides in strength and cardiovascular health, as well as prevent falls and remain active and independent.
The following exercises will help you build strength, balance, and better posture. Repeat each until you become fatigued or until you feel your form slipping. If you can’t complete any of these exercises or have questions about their execution, you may want to seek help from a qualified health care professional.
These help with balance and strength. As we age, we tend to lose strength in many areas of our bodies, including in the muscles that flex our hips. These hip-flexor muscles are especially important for our ability to climb stairs or climb into buses without tripping. Marches strengthen these muscles while reinforcing good posture.
- Stand tall with your feet just under your hips. Hold your hands at hip level with your palms facing down.
- Shift your weight to your right leg and bring your left knee to touch your palms.
- Hold for two seconds and then put the left leg back on the floor.
- Switch legs and bring the right knee to meet your palms.
- To challenge yourself, hold your knee in the air for a longer period of time.
Hurdle steps allow you to practice shifting weight and strengthen the muscles that help you stand on one leg. This exercise challenges your balance and coordination, which is paramount for navigating the city and being quick on your feet.
If you balance with confidence, you can perform these with your hands straight out to the side. If you feel unsteady, you can use a countertop or a pole for balance.
- Place a yoga block or small stack of books on the floor next to the side of your right foot.
- Begin by lifting your right leg up high and stepping to the right and over the obstacle.
- Now bring your left foot over the stack to meet your right. Make sure to lift the trailing leg up high so you clear the obstacle.
- Once both feet have made it over the hurdle, repeat the exercise to your left.
Squats can improve leg function in older adults. By practicing this exercise, you will strengthen many large muscle groups in your legs, allowing you to get in and out of your chair with ease, climb stairs, get on and off the floor, and take longer hikes and walks.
Getting up from a chair without using your arms can be pretty difficult. It takes a lot of work from your legs and back-side.
- Start by sitting on the chair with your feet planted wide on the ground and your torso tilted forward slightly.
- Press your feet into the floor and use your gluteal (or hip) muscles to stand upright. From there, gently lower yourself back to the chair, but don’t let yourself relax.
- As soon as you feel the chair beneath you, come back up and rise again.
The bridge focuses on balance and strengthening your backside—or gluteals—while maintaining good alignment. Strengthening your gluteals may help alleviate some back pain and provide power to other activities mentioned in the previous three exercises.
- Begin lying on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
- Place your hands on the floor with your palms facing the ceiling.
- Brace your abdominals and send your hips straight up.
- At the top, you should feel your gluteal muscles engaging. Slowly descend to the floor without rolling through your spine.
This move supports both posture and strength. Good posture is key. People with good posture tend to move better, which means they may have less pain. Building muscles that support good posture is one of the first steps to achieve good posture.
For this exercise, you will need a light resistance band.
- Bend your elbows at about 90 degrees, holding either end of the band in your hands.
- Keep your elbows pressed against your sides and move your hands away from one another so that the band becomes taught.
- Stand up tall and feel your shoulder blades trying to touch one another on your back as you repeat the motion.
- It is important for shoulder health to keep your chest wide and your shoulders open when performing this exercise.
Marissa Joseph is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) in Manhattan. She gives workshops for athletes and dancers throughout the East Coast and works as a top-tier trainer at Elysium Fitness where she helps people who’ve had hip and knee replacements and injuries to restore their full function. Elysiumfitness.net
Fitness model is Barbara Evans.